an against-all-odds admission to a university


Senior Member
Hi, everyone,

Here's another phrase "an against-all-odds admission to a university" from the nytimes article "The First Chinese Exchange Students". The context is:
During my own recent three years of living there, I was often startled by the dramatic stories told by my Chinese friends — both the terrible parts (famine, split and scattered families, trust betrayed, fortunes lost) and the astonishing rebounds (an against-all-odds admission to a university, a fearless gamble that paid off, a random kindness from a generous stranger).
Does it mean that people try to enter university by all means?
  • Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    It means somebody got admitted to university although he never thought he would be, his chances of getting into university were very small/low/slim. We don't know exactly why he thought he had no hope or why he was admiited 'against all odds'. When the phrase is used as an adjective before the noun, as in the quote, hyphens are used between the words.

    "Against all/the odds" is betting language. It means there is very little chance of something happening.

    " The pancreatic cancer survival rate is very low, but against all the odds my mother made a full recovery"

    Edited to add WR dictionary link:

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